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Obama vs. Romney and NH Primary Night Coverage

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The media had to throw out their script Tuesday night as the Democratic election returns came in during the New Hampshire primary. The print media who wrote Hillary Clinton's obituary that morning and the broadcast media who spent the hours preceding the election results asking, "What happened to Hillary?" have obviously backtracked during the past 18 hours.

But the broadcast media was slow to improvise last night, waiting at least half the evening before they could accept the fact that their paradigm (and that of the pollsters) on the Democratic side was not in line with the voice of New Hampshire voters. This, of course, is the media watchdog headline of the evening.

But there is another media story that is not being examined, and that was how the media framed the second place finishes of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Based on the four New Hampshire polls released Tuesday morning with data collected through Monday, Romney trailed John McCain by an average of 5.3 points. Obama, meanwhile, held an 8.5 percent average lead in those same four polls.

The vote for Romney was right in line with the pollsters' predictions and expectations from the past week or so—Romney lost by 6 points to McCain, 37 to 31 percent, with 99 percent of the precincts reporting. Obama lost to Clinton by 3 points—or nearly 12 points shy of 'expectations.'

The media, however, was so bewildered in the first few hours of their coverage with the close Democratic race, and then so thoroughly impressed with the turnout for Clinton, that Obama's lackluster performance (again, based on expectations) became almost an afterthought. The night was all about how well Clinton had done—not about what mistakes Obama might have made to prompt the Clinton comeback (e.g. his smart-alecky reply about Hillary's "likeability" during what was the highlight for Clinton in last Saturday night's Democratic debate). Lost in the celebration of Clinton, was a critical look at Obama.

On the Republican side, despite meeting expectations, the media basically wrote off the Romney campaign. Keep in mind, Romney (Wyoming) and Obama (Iowa) have each won one state thus far in the 2008 campaign (with Obama's admittedly being the more impressive victory). There was some talk of a 'last-stand' in Michigan for Romney, but the media script was that "Romney lost" as much as it was that McCain had won. The media did—correctly—note Romney's effective 'concession' speech last night, but only after McCain gave one of his worst speeches of the past year during his victory celebration. But who should have been the big loser on Tuesday night, based on the expection game the media usually plays? Obama, not Romney. Yet Obama largely got a free pass.

It is folly to think a ratings-driven media will change in 2008, even with the Tuesday night shocker that took place in New Hampshire and left many broadcasters and pundits with egg on their faces. In an effort to be heard amongst a thousand voices on television, in the blogosphere, talk radio, and print media, grandiose statements and predictions will continue to be made (as they were last night), celebrating the efforts of one candidate and tearing down the campaign of another without taking the long view or a deep breath.

Unfortunately for Romney, and luckily for Obama, the media stuck to their script for most of their New Hampshire coverage. It took about three hours of Clinton leading in the returns to put an end to the praise of Obama, and a very flat and clumsy address to his supporters by McCain for a few positive words to be said about Romney - the current delegate leader for the GOP.

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1 Comment


  • It is true that Obama received more of a pass than Romney for a poorer showing than expect based on the recent polls. The media behavior was inconsistent with the expectation game the media usually plays. However, I think if one takes the longer view you advocate, then Obama's objective success in New Hampshire is unfairly being overlooked in favor of the media-driven story of "Clinton's surprising victory in New Hampshire." At the time of the Iowa caucuses, how was Obama polling relative to Clinton in New Hampshire? Didn't Obama's share of the vote in New Hampshire exceed that at the expense of Clinton's? What is the trajectory of the two candidates based on that? Shouldn't Obama's growing support at the expense of Clinton's be the objective story?

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    Remains of the Data

    Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

    Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

    Political Crumbs

    Six for Thirteen

    Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


    Seeing Red

    Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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